Good News! The Common Application essay prompts are  same 5 prompts from 2013 Common App. Juniors can start brainstorming now! ☺essay writing

The maximum length is 650 words and the minimum is 250.

Bad News … Many colleges request a supplemental essay of their own topic;  thus you are writing a third  (or more!) essay. For colleges that do not accept the Common App, your personal essay may be suitable to answer their essay topic. In 2013, Wake Forest required 8 additional short answer essays!

“Additional Information” section on the Common App, this is an optional section. It may be a perfect opportunity to add something unique or quirky about you. Some students include their resumes while others may list other activities that did not fit on the activities section of their application.

General Tips & Hints

Noteworthy! Some colleges will look at your SAT writing score and compare it to your submitted application essay. Be sure your essays reflect your own writing style and not someone else’s.

Short and Sweet – keep all of your essays on point and specific.The common app will not allow you to go over the word count but some individual college applications do not have the capability of preventing “overage”. Never go over the maximum word count.

Three great sentences – really good essays have them; first, middle, and last.

Answer the Question – ask yourself, “Am I answering the question?” Essays can cover a lot of ideas; don’t forget to tie it to the original question.

Vivid, simple language –  your essay needs to be descriptive but do not use complicated words that are not your own. They can hurt your story.

Go to the thesaurus.  Contrary to the above point, do put some effort in making your story interesting by varying your word selection and adjectives. Using the same word 3 times in the same sentence is boring!

Be careful when recycling essays! Make sure you change the name of the college in each version of “Why do you want to attend XYZ “.  ☺  It  is difficult for them to accept you if you leave in PDQ ‘s College name when it should say XYZ College.

A few topics to avoid: Addiction, sex, politics, religion, poor me and jail time.  Remember, you want the reader to like you. Avoid topics that would make anyone, including the Admissions department, uncomfortable. 

Supplemental Essay Questions

Ugh! It seems like every college wants a supplemental essay! :(  if you are applying to several colleges than most likely you will be answering several supplemental essays. This is a lot of work so it is important to get organized.

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Create a document of ALL supplemental essays you will be answering.

Create a  complete word document titled “College Supplement Questions”. Go to either the  Common App or to the individual college website copy and paste each school’s question(s) into a word document. You can then prioritize the amount of additional essays required with your level of interest in the college.


You may be writing 10 to 15 additional essays depending on the quantity of schools you apply to. Some essays only ask for a few sentences and sometimes your answers can be recycled, for several school such as “Tell us about yourself?” or “Why our College?”

you are unique

Passion is the Buzzword

Do you need to be passionate about mastering Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata 3rd Movement or competing in the National Judo Olympics? Have you discovered a cure?  Not a team captain? Uh ho, you are not worthy! Just kidding.

Write passionately about any topic that excites you, reveals who you are and makes you likable. You could be passionate about chocolate chip cookies, bluegrass music, playing tennis, reading to preschoolers, or chopping wood, which by the way, shows work good ethic. ☺

Brainstorming for Essays is Fun! 

Your essay topic is important and you have a wealth of experiences that would make great topics. When deciding how to answer a question, it can be really helpful to bounce ideas off people who know you. Some of your ideas will be a lot better than others! Make it dinner table discussion, ask your parents, friends, or teachers. Think about your childhood, or a role model’s influence on you or an interest of yours that makes you unique. Reading sample essays will help.

 Additional Essay Help 

 I love this website; put in the search box  “College Essay Tips” by Allen Grove. Allen does a great job of explaining almost everything related to the college application and essay process.

CollegeintheBag also edits essays! We love helping and editing! Go to the Contact Us page and send us an email. Rates are reasonable.